The darkness came after the storm, a darkness that was bitter and cold and wrapped around me and broke my skin. I forced air into my lungs and pulled the hat lower over my eyes, trying to shield my head from the howling gale. I glanced behind me at the house and it looked like a gigantic eye. My legs were getting frost bitten and my arms were weaker than sin. If sin is what it was. Something else howled. A lone wolf, some three miles away, possibly getting closer. This was way out in corn country, in the upper peninsula. The state that was shaped like a mitten. I learned that in second grade.
“Glorious, glorious day,” I muttered, shaking my head. “Weathermen never get it right.” I scowled.
It was September 5th, thirteen days after the passing of my grandfather Biff, the man who built this house from his own two hands. He had been working at General Motors for several years before he went on Social Security and spent the rest of his days at a nursing home until he went to the Big Sleep. The Big Sleep is what they call death nowadays, especially the old folk around here. It really wasn’t where people hibernated just like the animals and the animals took care of us until we woke up.
My grandfather plowed the land and raised corn and wheat and planted apple trees and I ate apples during the winter months and snow was on the ground. It was darkest during September and November, before the winter winds froze the ground and made it hard to harvest the wheat. I harvested wheat in the spring and planted more in the fall. Sometimes, I went into the woods and hunted for deer, rabbit, and geese. The geese were my best bet. The smaller animals, like the rabbit and geese, were easier to find in the woods. The larger ones, like the deer, could only be found out and about during the early morning hours. I didn’t like getting up that early. I was out of school and could be as lazy as I wanted to be. The storm was coming. I was worried about the horses. I only had two, Buttercup and Lionel. Lionel was my favorite and I felt guilty for leaving them in the cold barn but hopefully their fur made them warmer. The wind was very cold. I gasped and spat on the ground in front of me and made my way to the barn and forced the door open and pushed through and it was warmer inside the building, but not much.
“Lionel,” I muttered, stroking his mane. “Buttercup.” The horse nodded in acknowledgment. He had seen me come in. His breath poured in white rivulets in front of his face. I went and closed the window. It was warmer. Lionel blinked at me.
I baled more hay from upstairs. Lionel crunched on the yummy food and Buttercup drank from the bucket of water I just refilled. I filled another bucket and positioned it in front of the horses. Lionel grunted in satisfaction.
“The storm’s are harsh in the winter,” I said. “Have an apple.”
Lionel took the apple in his mouth and crunched on it. They didn’t seem to mind the cold. I put on my gloves and went outside and the snow was falling, so hard I could barely see in front of me. The wind was harsher than before. No one was around. The fields were empty. The animals safe in their dens.
I picked up my feet and hurried down the path I had made earlier. I wasn’t sure but I thought I saw a small moon peeking behind the clouds. It was October, close to Halloween. I tripped on a rock on the ground. Picked myself up and dusted myself off and zigzagged through the snow and entered the house. It was dark as the mouth of a cave. I turned on the light. Light flooded the living room, bedroom, and hallway. I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of apple cider and went to the window to watch the storm.
It was growing worse.
It was only October.